Author's Note: Sorry for the delay in updating. Damn interfering real life!
The next morning when Oliver awoke, his neck stiff from sitting in the chair all night, he found Grace still asleep next to him – her small hand firmly clasped in his larger one – and a little red-headed girl and her dog sound asleep on the other side of the bed. Sunlight was streaming in the window. Oliver didn't think he had never seen anything more wonderful in his whole life.
He gently let go of Grace's hand and stood up to stretch. He reached down with the back of his hand to check Grace's forehead and cheeks, just to make sure the fever had stayed down, and was relieved to feel her skin cool and dry. Grace's sighed slightly in her sleep, and Oliver smiled to himself. There was so much about this incredible woman that he couldn't wait to discover.
The billionaire tiptoed towards the door to let his sleeping beauties continue to rest. Sandy raised his head as Oliver opened the door but lowered it again when he realized his mistress was safe. Closing the door behind him Oliver ran into Punjab, who had been standing guard outside all night.
"Miss Grace is better Sahib?" Punjab asked, his voice full of genuine concern for the young woman.
"Yes Punjab. She seems to have rested well." Oliver walked away from the door and down the hall, motioning for Punjab to come with him. "I still don't know what happened to her yesterday. When she wakes I will try to talk to her and find out how she was injured and what led her to the state we found her in last night. In the meantime contact the police and have them begin an investigation. The person responsible for this will not be allowed to get away with it!"
"Right away Sahib." Punjab responded then vanished immediately to call the police.
Oliver headed to his chambers and freshened up. He didn't realize how wet and dirty he had gotten last night – he had paid no attention to his own clothing when he had scrambled to the ground to pick up Grace. Thinking about that again made him shudder – she had looked so awful, and her pleading apologies had shredded his heart. He couldn't stand the thought that someone had hurt her.
When he approached her room a short while later, he could hear a murmur of voices and soft laughter coming from under the door. He knocked and then gently opened the door. Grace was sitting up in bed, looking a million times better than last night, and Annie was half sitting up in bed snuggled into her side.
"Mornin' Daddy! Miss Farrell is much better today – doesn't she look swell?"
"Why yes Annie, she does. Absolutely swell."
"Thank you Oliver." Grace spoke softly and demurely looked down at her lap, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks.
"Annie, do you want to go get dressed while I talk to Miss Farrell?"
"Sure Daddy, c'mon Sandy." And the little girl leapt off the bed and headed out the door.
"How are you feeling this morning?" Oliver asked his still blushing secretary.
"I'm fine, really. Thank you. Oliver, we need to talk."
"Yes, we do." Oliver sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled Grace's hands from her lap and held them in his own. "I love you Grace Farrell and I don't ever want to live without you again. Will you marry me?"
Grace looked up, her eyes shining with pure joy. In a trembling voice she asked, "Are you sure?"
Oliver squeezed her hands tightly, and spoke with conviction. "Absolutely."
"Then, yes." Grace nodded her head and tried to return his strong grip in their clasped hands.
"Oh Grace!" Oliver moved forward and enveloped her in his arms, murmuring into her hair as she settled her head into the crook of his neck. "I love you so much. I was so foolish for not seeing it before, for not letting you know how important you are to me."
"I was so foolish for running away. Can you forgive me?" Grace whispered into his shoulder, and Oliver could feel her tears soaking into his fresh shirt.
"Don't give it another thought, my love. You are here now and you always will be."
Grace sniffled and he felt her nodding against him. He pulled back from her; just enough that their faces were only a couple of inches apart. He put one finger under her chin and tilted her head up so that he could look her directly in the eye. "I love you Grace."
"I love you Oliver."
Oliver turned his head slightly and leaned forward, tenderly and tentatively touching his lips to hers. The kiss was soft and warm, full of promise for the future. Grace sighed slightly as she melted into his embrace – being in his arms, kissing him, was like a piece of pure heaven.
A knock at the door ended the intimate moment and Oliver helped Grace settle back into the bed, fluffing the pillows behind her. Mrs. Pugh entered the room carrying a tray filled with the wonderful breakfast delights that she was well known for preparing. Annie came bounding in behind her.
Climbing back up on the bed, the little girl threw her arms around Grace again. "I missed you so much I want to hug you every time I see you!"
Oliver and Grace shared an indulgent smile, and when Mrs. Pugh was no longer in the room, Oliver sat down on the edge of the bed again with his hand gently resting against Grace's leg. The comfort of their touching bodies made Grace warm all over.
"Annie." Oliver spoke. "We'd like to tell you something."
Annie smiled up at them expectantly.
"Miss Farrell...Grace...and I are going to get married. What do you think?"
"Leapin' lizards! It's like a dream come true! Now I'll have a daddy and a mommy!"
Grace clutched at Oliver's hand at the word 'mommy' as her heart did somersaults in her chest. She was going to be this wonderful little girl's mother.
"Yes, that's right Annie." Oliver replied.
"And maybe, someday, a brother or sister?"
"Maybe Annie." smiled Grace shyly, reaching out to caress the young girl's face. She and Oliver hadn't talked about that yet, but she rather hoped that might be in their future plans. They had so much to discuss still – it was only a couple of weeks ago that he claimed he did not, and never would, like children.
"Wow! This is great." Annie declared. "I can't wait to tell all my friends!"
Annie ran from the room again, skipping high in the air. "Punjab! Punjab! Guess what?"
"Well, soon everyone on staff will know." Oliver spoke with a smile. "But I think it would be appropriate if we made a formal announcement, once you are feeling better of course. Speaking of that, we should have some of this delicious food."
Grace and Oliver shared the food that was on the breakfast tray. Oliver watched with some concern as Grace only ate a small amount of the repast, but she assured him that while she was feeling better her appetite just hadn't caught up yet. When they were done, Oliver put the tray aside and brought up the subject he had been avoiding.
"Yesterday Grace, when I found you, you had been stabbed several times with what the doctor thinks was a dirty knife." he reached up and stroked one of the bandaged areas on her face. "I can understand if you don't want to talk about it, but I need to know what happened. I've had Punjab call the police – we need to find who did this to you, and make them pay."
With a strong resolve, Grace launched into her story about how she left the hotel, as the woman from the flower shop had told him, and hailed a taxi. She had planned to go straight back to the mansion, but had decided to stop at the FAO Schwarz store to buy something for Annie – some little something that might make up for her extended and unexplained absence. As she left the store, and tried to hail another cab, Grace had been grabbed from behind and forced into an alleyway by a man who had recognized her from the her picture in the newspaper. He had planned on holding her for money, ransoming her to Warbucks. Grace had fought him and escaped, but not before he had seriously attacked her with his knife in a vain attempt to keep her under his control. After she had been attacked, she found it impossible to get anyone to help her. She had lost her bag, her purse, her money. Taxis would not stop for her and people on the street turned away from her cries for help.
"Oh Grace, I just wanted you to come home. If I had ever thought that it might put you in harm's way...I never would have..."
Grace reached forward to soothe Oliver. "It's fine, Oliver. It's fine. I'm fine. It's over."
"I never want to let you out of my sight again." The tone of his voice indicated how deadly serious Oliver was, and Grace felt utterly secure in the protection of his love.
Another knock came at the door, and this time it was Punjab, letting the pair know that the police had arrived to question Miss Farrell. Mrs. Pugh bustled in, all smiles at the couple whom Annie had just told her were going to be married, and took the breakfast tray away. Oliver helped Grace to stand from her bed, and he escorted her to a chair on the far side of the chamber. Once she was settled, he had Punjab usher the police into the room.
Oliver stood behind her, his hand solidly on her shoulder, giving her strength when she found her own wavering. She outlined her recollections of yesterday's events as best she could, giving the police a detailed description of the man who had attacked her. And when the officer said something to Oliver and referred to Grace has "your fiancé" her heart fluttered like a hundred butterflies had suddenly flown into her chest. So much had changed, for the better, in such a short time period.
Tired after talking to the police, Grace needed to go back to sleep. Oliver helped her back to the bed. He tucked her in, tenderly pulling the covers around her. He bent down and kissed her, first on the lips and then on her forehead.
"Sleep well my love." he whispered to her. "I love you."
"I love you." Grace smiled up at him, as he stood straight. Reaching down to lightly caress her cheek with the back of his fingers, Oliver smiled at her and then tiptoed out of the room.
Closing the door behind him, he called for Punjab to find Annie and for the Asp to ready his car. He and Annie were going to make that trip to Tiffany's today, and make them an official family before the Fourth of July. They could have a party for Annie and announce to the world that day that the three of them planned to be together forever.